A South Sudanese Parenting Program was offered to Parents and Schools in Shepparton in September of 2018 at several locations. The program was seen to be important for imparting parenting skills to settlement families in this region.
Parenting involves a broad range of understanding and support for children, such as their physical, social, emotional, cultural needs and their intellectual developments. Migrating to a new country and culture comes with a lot of challenges. Almost inevitably, children are quickly absorbed into the educational system and start catching up with the new culture much faster than their parents.
Parents can be effective when they are authoritative in their parenting styles, and this program will empower them to learn how to manage their children’s behaviours effectively. The program seeks to supplement and work with the existing parents, schools and community organisations to build and extend the capacity of their support toward children, parents and caregivers.
Family Values in Sudan
- Families are extended and live together with all children treated equally
- Males are heads of households and dominate the economic and social domains
- Traditionally women are responsible for childrearing, the sick, old and mentally ill. However, after resettlement fathers may become more involved because of lack of family support
- Gender segregation for eating and socialising is traditional. Resettled young couples may live more like westerners
- Divorce is acceptable as a last resort after families have failed to assist in resolving problems. Often dowry’s have to be returned
- After divorce, children irrespective of age, always live with the father’s family
- In some families the groom’s family pay a dowry, usually money
- Marriage is arranged and seen as a contract between families. Sometimes the final decision is made by the woman
- Preference in marriage is given to cousins and relatives
- The groom’s family pay a dowry, usually with heads of cattle (Dinka and Nuer), or with pigs, goats, crops or money depending on resources. In resettled countries this may be paid in money, or with stock to families in Sudan
- Men may take more than one wife and the number is indicative of wealth
- Marriages are usually outside the tribe, clan, or social group
- Children are raised in distinctive gender roles with girls learning about home management and boys being encouraged to develop endurance and strength in order to protect themselves and their families later on
- Girls are seen as sources of wealth
There is a clearly identified need to provide positive parenting programs within South Sudanese community (schools based) to alleviate some of the parenting and youth challenges. There are needs for mutual support as a coping strategy for meeting these challenges; there is a conversation to be had around the integration of South Sudanese traditional parenting practices and Australian parenting practices creating equilibrium between old South Sudanese and new Australian parenting practices may strengthen effective integration.
South Sudanese parents speak of bringing these practices and cultures together to deepen their integration, but also of needing support to preserve aspects of their original culture. Most maintain that parenting training or workshops about the relevant policies or laws of their new country would improve the integration process. Some parents emphasise the significance of integrating both old and new cultures to increase understanding and their adaptation to their new environment, and to minimise clashes with their traditional practices. Lack of support and unfamiliarity with their new system, which is seen to be one of the main barriers to integration. Although some find it hard to reconcile the differences between their old and new cultures, most understood that they have little choice but to find appropriate tools for integrating both cultures and parenting practices.
What would the workshops achieve?
The workshops will help parents and young people to understand through making them aware that parenting is not an individual issue, but rather is universal and common among their peers. The workshops will be run in English, Sudanese Arabic and any other Sudanese languages based on participants’ demand. Parents and young people will be encouraged to learn from each other so that they can create a supportive social network wherever necessary. Such collaborative approaches are intended to recognise the fact that many new settlers come from cultures where reliance is placed on extended family members for support.
This program will give parents and young people opportunities to:
- Share their experiences of parenting in Australia and to learn from each other the values of parenting styles;
- Provide the right tools and information necessary to enable parents to acquire knowledge, support and skills in raising their children in their new environment, through empowering parents to improve their parenting roles/activities;
- Parents and young people coming together to do some activities so that they learn from one another and build trust. Example, “let talk session” between young people and parents (a club like group — dialogue);
- Share and improve understanding of Australian laws and parenting in Australia relating to children;
- Enable younger parents to learn from more experienced ones;
- Establish equilibrium between the cultures (e.g. South Sudanese and Australian);
- To alleviate and curb the current youth issues by creating collaboration between South Sudanese parents and service providers (including schools, Child Protection, Justice, Police, etc.);
- Parents going to schools and share about one another (e.g. language)
A program that brings parents together will provide opportunities for younger parents to learn from those with more experience, and establish some balance between their tradition and acceptable parenting practices. It could also create a community where parents can adapt and integrate a mutually acceptable approach to positive parenting. Part of parenting is resolving relationship problems through empowering parents and through manipulating the environment to nurture and transform it from the unknown to the known, both in knowledge and values. For parents to be effective in their parenting, they need to choose an appropriate intervention.